Return to Transcripts main page


Biden, Harris Face Attacks From Dem Rivals at CNN Debate; Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) is Interviewed About His Debate Performance. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired August 1, 2019 - 07:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): It was a surprise to our eyes. Just who the hell are all these guys? Today, I saw them for the first time.


[07:00:15] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You were right. I do love that version of "Late Night Laughs." Candidates should use them for their campaign ads.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And rhyming with Jay Inslee is not easy. I'll just say that.

CAMEROTA: We have two presidential candidates coming up in just minutes. NEW DAY continues right now.


SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The first thing I'm going to do when I'm president is I'm going to Clorox the Oval Office.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need a conversation about what's happening now.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you cross the border illegally, you should be able to be sent back. It's a crime.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Vice President, it looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past and one of us hasn't. Let me begin by telling you --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was able to get the lines in, escape unscathed. He bought himself a new lifeline. He will be back.

BIDEN: Barack Obama knew exactly who I was. He chose me, and he said it was the best decision.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He couldn't get his central message about what he wants to do for this country. That isn't good enough for 2020.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is a special edition of NEW DAY. We are live in Detroit.

It is the morning after. The morning after the Democratic debate. It was bruising here on CNN. Particularly for former vice president Joe Biden. Just about every other candidate on the stage was attacking one aspect of Biden's record or another.

But unlike the first round of the debates, you got the sense that Joe Biden was ready. Some of the analysis this morning, you will hear maybe he didn't thrive. But he survived. And one key question we will ask is, is he a stronger frontrunner this morning or a weaker frontrunner than he was going in?

CAMEROTA: Senator Kamala Harris came out swinging. She landed some blows on Biden, but she had a tougher time last night when she was the target. Harris was challenged on her new health care plan and her record as a prosecutor.

So we have a lot of key moments from the night two face-off to show you and dissect. So let's begin with CNN's Athena Jones. She joins us now with the highlights -- Athena.


As we all expected, Joe Biden was the top target on the stage that night, taking fire from all sides, on everything from health care to tough-on-crime laws, women in the workplace, immigration, trade, climate change.

As promised, the vice president was more aggressive in fighting back last night. He delivered a steadier performance, if not a spectacular one, as compared to that first debate in Miami.


JONES (voice-over): It didn't take long for Senator Kamala Harris and all of the Democratic rivals on stage to pounce on former Vice President Joe Biden.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Vice President, you want to be president of the United States. You need to be able to answer the tough questions.

JAY INSLEE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Vice President, your argument is not with me; it's with science. And unfortunately, your plan is just too late.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you want to compare records and, frankly, I'm shocked that you do, I am happy to do that.

GILLIBRAND: Mr. Vice President, you didn't answer my question.

JONES: But Biden came swinging, too.

BIDEN: I have guts enough to say his plan doesn't make sense. You can't beat President Trump with double talk.

JONES: The former vice president slamming Harris' healthcare plan, bringing back one of his old catch phrases.

BIDEN: So this idea is a bunch of malarkey, what we're talking about here.

I don't know what math you do in California, but I tell you, that's a lot of money.

JONES: Harris hitting back.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Your plan, by contrast, leaves out almost 10 million Americans. So I think that you should really think about what you're saying.

JONES: After Senator Cory Booker brought up Biden's support of a controversial crime bill in the '90s, Biden lashing out.

BIDEN: The bill he talks about a bill that in my -- our administration we passed. We passed that bill that you added onto. That's the bill, in fact, you passed.

And the fact of the matter is, secondly, there was nothing done for the entire eight years he was mayor. There was nothing done to deal with the police department that was corrupt.

BOOKER: Mr. Vice President, there's a saying in my community. You're dipping into the Kool-Aid, and you don't even know the flavor. You need to -- you need to come to the city of Newark and see the reforms that we put in place. This isn't about the past, sir. This is about the present right now.

JONES: Former Housing Secretary Julian Castro also sparring with Biden on decriminalizing border crossings.

BIDEN: If you cross the border illegally, you should be able to be sent back. It's a crime.

CASTRO: First of all, Mr. Vice President, it looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past and one of us hasn't. Let me begin by telling you --

JONES: Biden wasn't the only one taking jabs from the other contenders. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard slammed Senator Harris's record as a prosecutor.

REP. TULSI GABBARD (D-HI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.

And she fought to keep cash bail system in place that impacts poor people in the worst kind of way.

[07:05:07] HARRIS: I did the work of significantly reforming the criminal justice system of a state of 40 million people, which became a national model for the work that needs to be done. And I am proud of that work. And I am proud of making a decision to not just give fancy speeches or be in a legislative body and give speeches on a floor but actually doing the work.

JONES: Some 2020 hopefuls were tired of talking about the past.

BENNET: This is the fourth debate that we have had and the second time that we have been debating what people did 50 years ago with busing when our schools are as segregated today as they were 50 years ago. We need a conversation about what's happening now.

JONES: Political outsider Andrew Yang implored his rivals to stop attacking each other and instead take aim at President Trump.

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're up here with makeup on our faces and our rehearsed attack lines, playing roles in this reality TV show. It's one reason why we elected a reality TV star as our president. We need to be laser-focused on solving the real challenges of today.


JONES: Now the question now is who, if anyone, will get a meaningful and lasting bump in support and fundraising and in the polls from their debate performance.

Meanwhile, several of the candidates we saw on stage last night are staying here in this area today for campaign events. Biden has an event at a restaurant in Detroit. Harris has a union event in the afternoon. And Cory Booker has an organizing event -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Athena. Thank you for playing us all of those highlights. Really helpful for us to talk about it.

So joining us now are Mitch Landrieu, CNN political commentator and the former mayor of New Orleans; Terry McAuliffe, CNN political commentator and former governor of Virginia. We have Dennis Archer, the former mayor of Detroit; and Lavora Barnes, the chair of the Michigan Democratic Party. Great to have all of you.

Mayor Landrieu, I want to start with you. Because you sent out a tweet. I don't know if it was before the debate or during, but I just want to read a portion of it. You say the Dem debate participants must remember that our ultimate goal is to defeat Donald Trump. Our policy differences are minor compared to the contrasts with Donald Trump. I'm not sure they got the memo that you were trying to impart.

MITCH LANDRIEU, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Maybe they didn't, because they were fierce competitors, as they should be. But I would just say, again, you know, the general advice is you've got to beat Trump. And in order to govern, you've got to win.

CAMEROTA: Right. But too much infighting. I mean, did you feel there was too much in-fighting friendly fight last night?

LANDRIEU: I think listen -- I think in both debates, everybody was as sort on the people as they could and hard on the promise to prosecute their case. And I think everybody's record is in play.

But I think they have to remember, at the end of the day, when they're fighting about health care, to remember to say the Republicans are trying to take away our health care, and we're trying to give it to you. And then talk about the specifics.

But I thought it was a pretty aggressive debate last night. And I think a couple of people shined and a couple of people didn't, just like the night before.

BERMAN: Well, OK. Who shined?

LANDRIEU: I think Cory Booker shined last night. Julian Castro, Michael Bennet. I actually think the vice president is going to have done a lot better than people thought. He showed up. Everybody threw every kind of punch at him. Not only was he still standing; he kind of gave back a little bit more.

I was a little bit surprised at Kamala Harris. I thought she was a little bit less than she was in the first debate. And I agree that after this debate, the herd is going to start getting thin fairly quickly. So by the time we get to September, probably only ten of these candidates are going to be standing on that stage.

BERMAN: Lavora, you were nodding a lot on the issue of taking on President Trump. I don't want to let that slide. Why were you giving such affirmation to the notion that perhaps they should have been focused there?

LAVORA BARNES, CHAIR, MICHIGAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY: We have to beat him. Right? They all did their homework. They were all ready to come and talk about issues and talk about each other's issues. But we need to talk a little bit more about what Donald Trump has done to this nation and to this state and to this city and how we're going to win and how we're going to beat him.

And the way they can each beat him is to begin talking about those issues now, not wait until they've won a nomination to talk about them. Talk about them now.

CAMEROTA: And so -- so when you saw that as the head of the Michigan Democratic Party, were you sort of cringing at some of the friendly fire?

BARNES: I wanted to shout a little bit. I'm not allowed to shout from the audience, apparently. I learned. But I wanted to shout a little bit. Let's talk about what the Republicans have done.

These issues are real when you're talking about health care, just like Mitch said. Why aren't you talking about what Republicans have done to health care rather than going back and forth?

CAMEROTA: And why weren't they?

BARNES: And the tiny differences in your health care plans.

CAMEROTA: What do you think they were thinking?

BARNES: I think that they were thinking, "Let me tell my story. I need to get my story out. I need to make sure people understand my position and how I differ from my friends on the stage." And I get that. That's part of the job. But the big job here is beating Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Governor, your take?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Joe Biden did what he had to do last night. Listen, they all went after him. I mean, it was -- all the candidates went after him. He knocked off most of the arguments against him. So, you know, listen, he moves on. He's still the frontrunner.

I agree. I think Kamala, it was a tough attack by Congresswoman Gabbard on her. We had candidates -- but I agree, we've got to now get into very specific decisions of how we're going to make people's lives better.

[07:10:04] That first 20 minutes on health care was mind-numbing. I don't think any American watched that and said, "Well, I know what's going to happen now." You know, we've got to be very explicit. You know, how are we going to bring prescription drug prices down?

People are going to start voting in five months. This is not too far away. The early vote starts in January. And we've got to start laying out a positive, specific agenda.

And I agree. I mean, look what Trump's done to health care. I mean, he took away the individual mandate. He brought uncertainty to the market. In Virginia, some policies went up 62 percent. He owns problems with health care in this country. Let's make sure he owns it, not the Democrats.

LANDRIEU: They didn't mention pre-existing conditions last night. Nor did they mention the fact that -- I think Cory Booker may have -- that the president's team right now is at the Fifth Circuit court, federal court, trying to strip health care away by destroying the Affordable Care Act. So I think that that's -- I think the governor's right on being more precise about what the president has done to take away people's health care, rather than arguing about the details of how we're going to give it to them.

CAMEROTA: Mayor, your takeaways from last night?

DENNIS ARCHER (D), FORMER MAYOR OF DETROIT: I thought everybody wanted to show something about them that people would remember. For example, the Kool-Aid observation.

CAMEROTA: Did you understand the Kool-Aid observation? There's been a lot of controversy on our set this morning. ARCHER: Listen, I've been around a long time.


ARCHER: I've never heard anything about Kool-Aid. That's not something that I'm familiar with.

CAMEROTA: Interesting.

ARCHER: I'll admit that I don't know everything, but that's one thing I have not heard whatsoever.

CAMEROTA: OK. So that is -- was not an effective argument for you?

ARCHER: Well, everybody did what they had to do. I'm just delighted that you all have done just a fabulous job in terms of having people on talking about the issues. Then we saw the candidates last night.

And I agree with both Mitch and the governor. When you start thinking about what Joe Biden did -- and you think about all of the people that he's helped on that stage in terms of winning their respective elections, and what he's done for the country. And he took a whole lot of body blows but stood tall.

We've got great candidates to offer to make sure that in 2020, we take back the White House. And we're going to do it, but we've got to do it in such a way that you don't alienate your friends. Because if you go after Biden in such a way that people think that you're going after President Obama, you then have an impact on voters of color. Because they're not going to go with that, and you run the risk of staying home.

Please remember what happened when President Obama was giving a State of the Union and Congressman Wilson called the president a liar during that -- during his remarks. That -- that really hurt them. Because people came out -- you go to barbershop and beauty shop, you're subject to get beat if you start talking about President Obama.

That's the same kind of thing we need at the end of the day to bring everybody out. We need to make sure everybody's energized to keep 45 from getting a reelection.

MCAULIFFE: Let me just say, the mayor's right on the attacks. The first hour of attacks on Biden were Obama policies. The issue of health care and deportation.

President Obama has a 95 percent approval rating in the Democratic Party. So when you go after his policies, you're going after President Obama. And that was tricky. And that's why I think those first attacks on Biden just plain didn't work.

LANDRIEU: One of the other things they could have said is maybe too obvious. We're actually in the great city of Detroit that six, seven years ago was really on its back. By the way, like New York was in 1976. And President Obama and Vice President Biden and the federal

government came to this great city, said it's important, said diversity is a strength, and helped it stand back up, just like they did in the city of New Orleans.

They would never say about New Orleans and Detroit what President Trump has said about Baltimore. And that message that gets sent out is "We don't care about you. We're leaving you behind. And by the way, you're less than human."

Democrats and, really, most Americans understand that that is not who we are as a country. And Detroit, Mr. Mayor has done a great job this week and has really acquitted themselves really week. And thank you for having us.

BARNES: Doesn't this city look great? This is terrific.

BERMAN: And I hear everyone talking about that who's coming to visit this week.

Lavora, to that point. And I'm thinking about Macomb County. I'm thinking about Michigan the swing state. I'm talking about the counties in this swing state that are swing counties. And one of the things I'm hearing this morning is, well, if President Obama was too far right for the Democratic Party, what does that say about the Democratic Party? How would you respond to that as the chair of the party in this state?

BARNES: President Obama is not too far right for the Democratic Party. The thing that we have to do is we have to talk about the issues that matter. The kitchen table issues that matter to everyone in this state and in this country. And we need to talk about them at the same time we're talking about the urban issues that are important. Same time we're talking about clean water, the same time we're talking about health care. The same time we're talking about all those issues that matter to all of us. And what we have to do is do it all.

And one of my concerns is that we're trying to separate so that we are either talking to the voters of Macomb or we're talking to the voters of Detroit. We're going to talk to everybody. And we have to have the same message for everybody, because we've all been marginalized by this president. We've all been separated by him into categories. We need to come together and be talking about all these issues that work for all of us.

[07:15:17] LANDRIEU: I'll tell you. I was surprised last night that a number of the candidates on that stage did not bother to say what the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has suppressed coming out of the United States Senate.

You're talking about, for example, infrastructure. Our newly-elected governor, Gretchen Witmer, outstanding. She's doing a great job. "Fix the damn roads" was her message.

Well, all across the United States, if there was not a meeting in the Hay Adams Hotel before the inauguration of President Obama, where Mitch McConnell made it very clear that Obama was going to be a one- term president, you think about all the programs that could have been implemented. But he stopped them.

Right now he's got a number of issues before him in the United States Senate that have been passed by the House, and they've blocked them. What that says to me is, if we want help, if we want change, we've got to make change across the board. And we want somebody who's got the wisdom, the knowledge, and the experience to make sure that that happens. And we also have to relieve Mr. McConnell of his job.

CAMEROTA: It sounds like you all think the candidates missed some opportunities on messaging last night. And so Mayor, that leads us to what changed, if anything?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, I think that's OK to debate. This is a long campaign. It's too long. The debates were too long as a general matter. But they're going to -- they're going to get better at what they do. You saw -- you saw from the first debate a lot of the candidates change.

And that's just kind of the horse race. And it's OK for them to go after each other if they just remember they actually have to think about beating President Trump. That is the one qualification that I think every Democrat is looking for. And they have to acquit themselves.

As I said, the stage is going to get smaller in September. They're going to have a little bit more time to talk about each other. All of them are going to go back and look at the tape and think about things that they missed.

But again, from my perspective, I think just stay focused on the prize. Beat President Trump. And whatever you have to do to do that, that's what we ought to be talking about.

And by the way, pocketbook issues -- infrastructure, health care, education, how to get a job and so that you don't have to work three jobs and not being able to go to your kids' game and be able to pay your mortgage and pay your tuition -- all of those things is what most Americans want across race, across class and really across geography. And be nice to people, and lift them up, because diversity really is a strength. It's not a weakness. That's who we are.

BERMAN: Governor, you were talking about Joe Biden taking it from all sides during that debate, and you think he survived. There is a question this morning about the next one. Because on the next debate, most certainly, he'll be there with Elizabeth Warren. And Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden, they've been at political odds for a long time. It's not a new thing. Do you think he'll be able to handle that? How will he handle that?

MCAULIFFE: That's a good question. The next debate is going to be fascinating. I think people want to see the Biden/Warren matchup. I think if you look at the two debates that we had here, who is the big winner? I think Elizabeth Warren came out as a big winner. She talked about specifics. What I loved about Elizabeth Warren, like Cory Booker last night, she

was a happy warrior. She looked -- you looked at her, she's talking specific about issues. She can take on Donald Trump, and she can do it with a smile.

So I think the next debate for Joe Biden is going to be, you know, Warren's going to be in that. Sanders is going to be in that. And that's where he has to show that he has a plan for the future.

I'm tired about hearing about the past. I don't want to hear about busing four years ago. I want to know today what are you doing about fixing the damn roads? I want to know about bringing prescription drug prices down. And that's the challenge for us Democrats as we go forward. We've got to get more specific into the issues. Let's stop the attack on one another. Now is the time to lay that positive agenda.

We're going to beat Trump. There's no question. You look at Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. We lost by 77,000 votes total. You know, I remind you, 92 million people did not vote in 2016. They stayed home. A lot of them are not staying home. They're coming out. We're going to win Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. Hard for Trump to win. But let's have a unified message. He's created chaos. Democrats will lift people up and fix it.

CAMEROTA: Friends, thank you very much for all of the analysis and your impressions. It's great to have you here with us this morning. And thanks for all the hospitality in Detroit.

BARNES: Thanks for coming.

ARCHER: Thank you for the great job that you all have done.

CAMEROTA: Thank you for that message.

All right. Meanwhile, we have four more presidential candidates who were on the stage last night coming up on our program. We have senators Michael Bennet, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker. So stick around for all of that.

BERMAN: All right. Up first, Senator Michael Bennet. He had what many are calming a very strong debate performance. You heard it in this panel right here. Will that lead to a jump in the polls? Will it get him on the next debate stage? Here he is. We'll talk to him next.



[07:23:55] SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For the last three years, we've been consumed by a president who, frankly, doesn't give a damn about your kids or mine. Mr. President, kids belong in classrooms, not cages. And they deserve something better than a bully in the White House.


BERMAN: That's Colorado Senator Michael Bennet going after Donald Trump directly at last night's CNN Democratic debate. A short time later, President Trump appeared to respond, falsely claiming that the policy of child separation has ended.

Now, Senator Bennet joins us this morning.

Senator, that statement you made, combined with many of the other things you said last night, seemed to indicate that you wish more of the focus in this discussion right now was on President Trump.

BENNET: I think it's very important. I mean, he is the guy that's in the White House. In my view, he has violated every tenet of our democracy you can violate. And I think, as I said last night, you know, just on the racism alone, every Democrat, Republican, independent in this country should throw this guy out of here. And I think we do need to get our focus on him.

[07:25:15] BERMAN: So was there too much of the circular firing squad last night, you know, Democrat on Democrat fighting?

BENNET: It's early in the -- in our -- in our Democratic discussion. Health care, I think, is a good example. My view on health care is that we passed the Affordable Care Act. We made a difference to a lot of people. We were on defense politically for ten years.

Then Mitch McConnell tried to repeal it, repeal it. Trump tried to repeal it. We beat them, and we were on offense. And then Bernie right away then puts Medicare for all and, you know, he introduces it. And a bunch of the presidential candidates sign up to be on it. And I think we're on defense again on health care, which is unbelievable to me, because Donald Trump has spent his presidency taking health care away from millions of Americans. And that's where I think we should be drawing the line here.

CAMEROTA: We have a moment last night where you tried to talk more about health care, health insurance. So let's listen to that.


BENNET: We need to be honest about what's in this plan. It bans employer-based insurance and taxes the middle class to the tune of $30 trillion. Do you know how much that is? That is 70 percent of what the government will collect in taxes over the next ten years. We don't need to do that.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Senator.

BENNET: We can have --

TAPPER: I'm going to come to you in a second, but I do want to get to --

BENNET: -- a public option and have universal health care in this country. TAPPER: I do want to bring in Senator Harris, because he just suggested you were not being honest.

HARRIS: He -- we cannot keep with the Republican talking points on this. You've got to stop.


CAMEROTA: Were you saying that she wasn't being honest about this?

BENNET: Well, I can tell you this. These weren't Republican talking points. This is Bernie Sanders' description of his own bill. Bernie said the other night, "I wrote the damn bill," and he did.

And he and I have very different views about where we should head on health care. He's got an ideological commitment to nationalizing our health insurance industry. And I understand that from his perspective.

My view is that the American people want to make the choice for their families about whether they want to get insurance at their employer if they can, or whether they want a public option.

Think about what Bernie's proposing in terms of the employees at CNN. If he got -- if he got what he wanted, everybody at CNN would have to give up all the insurance you get at CNN and pay a massive tax for the privilege of giving that up.

CAMEROTA: And Senator Kamala Harris is on board with that, it sounds like to you.

BENNET: Right. Yes, she is. And -- and Elizabeth Warren is, as well. That's not a position that will unite Democrats, much less allow us to win in 2020. And we don't need to do it. Instead, we should have a public option.

BERMAN: Senator Harris, her plan is a little different than the Sanders or Warren notion. Because it would allow for, essentially, a Medicare advantage option, where you would be able to get a type of private insurance, maybe not your insurance. You don't like her plan either?

BENNET: Well, there are a couple things. One, that's an answer on Medicare Advantage. So Bernie's plan takes Medicare Advantage away from 22 million older Americans who have Medicare Advantage and love it. So I think Senator Harris and her latest iteration of her plan has said, "Well, I'm going to let Medicare Advantage in some form remain."

But she is still making insurance that you get at your employer illegal. And she's saying that it will take at least ten years to get to universal health care in this country. You guys have seen what the debate has been over the last ten years in health care. I mean, I think if we just have a public option, we can get to universal health care in this country in two years. So it seems to me that building on the Affordable Care Act, the work

that we've already done, not taxing the middle class in this country at a rate that they will never accept, is where we should head.

CAMEROTA: So how do you think last night went? Did you accomplish whatever you went out to do?

BENNET: Yes. I think it went well. I wanted to -- I wanted to have the discussion about Medicare for all, because I think it's very -- and the public option. I think it's important for people to understand that important distinction, certainly, before we go into the general election.

And I was glad to have some discussion, finally, about the importance of dealing with our education system in this country and the fact that, unfortunately, for kids today, our education systems reinforce the income inequality that we have instead of liberating people from it, because the best predictor of the quality of your education is your parents' income. That is not the American way, and we need to change that.

BERMAN: Senator, the next debate requires a very high threshold for getting in, 130,000 individual donors, at 2 percent in at least 4 polls. Where do you stand right now?

BENNET: Well, we're not there yet. And -- but on the other hand -- and I think we will get there. I have always had tough races. You know, Colorado is a purple state. It's exactly a third Republican, Democratic, and independent. I always barely win. And it's always a matter of one step in front of the other.

And I think we actually are going to need to nominate somebody who's from the --